Chatanika River

Fairbanks, Alaska

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The Chatanika is a great river for a one-day family outing or a five-to seven-day trip. With headwaters in the rolling hills north of Fairbanks, the Chatanika River flows westsouthwest 128 miles through spruce and birch forests to its confluence with the Tolovana River. A clearwater stream, the Chatanika courses mostly through a mature U-shaped valley, with low hills surrounding the valley and with mountains in the distance. The lower river traverses Minto Flats, an area covered with many small, clear lakes. The Elliott Highway crosses the river at midpoint and the Steese Highway crosses and parallels the upper reaches of the river. State and Bureau of Land Management roadside campgrounds and waysides dot the river. The historic Fairbanks-to-Circle gold trail follows the upper Chatanika, and some cabins may be found along the river near the town of Chatanika. While not a remote wilderness trip, the Chatanika offers an excellent recreational experience, with good wildlife viewing and a bit of gold mining history.

Chatanika River Professional Review and Guide

"The Chatanika is a great river for a one-day family outing or a five-to seven-day trip. With headwaters in the rolling hills north of Fairbanks, the Chatanika River flows westsouthwest 128 miles through spruce and birch forests to its confluence with the Tolovana River. A clearwater stream, the Chatanika courses mostly through a mature U-shaped valley, with low hills surrounding the valley and with mountains in the distance.

The lower river traverses Minto Flats, an area covered with many small, clear lakes. The Elliott Highway crosses the river at midpoint and the Steese Highway crosses and parallels the upper reaches of the river. State and Bureau of Land Management roadside campgrounds and waysides dot the river. The historic Fairbanks-to-Circle gold trail follows the upper Chatanika, and some cabins may be found along the river near the town of Chatanika. While not a remote wilderness trip, the Chatanika offers an excellent recreational experience, with good wildlife viewing and a bit of gold mining history."

Activity Type: Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing
Nearby City: Fairbanks
Distance: 128
Skill Level: Easy
Duration: 3-4 days
Class: Class I
Season: June through September
Local Contacts: Bureau of Land Management, Fairbanks; Upper Chatanika River State Recreation Area; Lower Chatanika State Recreation Site; private.
Driving Directions: Directions to Chatanika River

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May 2018